Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing closing engine gap through support from Exxon/Mobil

Sergio Perez Red Bull
Mark Thompson / Getty Images
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Changing equipment can disrupt a team, but Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez have successfully added their imprint to last year’s Honda powerplant as they take over the engine building responsibilities for 2022 with an assist from Exxon/Mobil fuel technologies.

“Having Mobil with us is a strong partnership with Red Bull and has been very important to deliver one of the most competitive power units and cars that we have,” Sergio Perez told NBC Sports prior to on-track activity for the 2022 Miami Grand Prix. “We came from a really intense season last year where and we developed the cars right up until the end. Having that consistency and philosophy has been amazing.

“It was certainly a great effort done by Mobil to provide us with the right tools and the close relationship that they have with our boys really made the difference.”

As the transition began in 2021, teammate Max Verstappen was embroiled in a tight battle with Lewis Hamilton to deliver the team their first Drivers’ Championship since 2013 when Sebastian Vettel went on an incredible late-season run and won nine consecutive races at the end. He sprinted away with the title.

The competition was much tighter in 2021 with the decision still uncertain until the final restart when a controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gave Verstappen his first title.

As Verstappen played a chess match with his Mercedes challenger, Perez was one of the strongest drivers in the field with podium results in three straight races from Istanbul through Mexico City and a pair of top-fives immediately following. A crash in Jeddah and an oil pressure issue in the season-ender at Abu Dhabi derailed Perez’s momentum, which was compounded by a failure to finish in the 2022 season-opener at Bahrain.

In fact, both Perez and Verstappen had fuel pump problems in the closing laps in the Bahrain Grand Prix and failed to earn any points. They bounced back in Round 2. Verstappen won the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Perez finished fourth and light shined on the horizon.

In Round 4, Red Bull finished 1-2 with seven different teams in the next seven positions.

It won’t take long to make up the deficit suffered in Round 1, Perez said: “We just have to keep progressing. I think we have a good package. Unfortunately, we’ve been really unlucky with reliability at the start of the season and I’ve been unlucky with fuel issues, but without those issues we have been in it for the championship – both championships.

“It’s fairly early in the season but I’m confident we have a good package.”

Red Bull chose the right time to make their change.

The surprisingly stout Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc, who has won two of the first four Formula 1 rounds of 2022, and Carlos Sainz Jr., with two podium finishes, put them at the top of the Constructor’s battle, but by only 11 points over Red Bull. In third, Mercedes has struggled and currently sits 36 points behind the leader.

But appearances can be deceiving and Perez acknowledges there is a long season ahead and many hard-fought battles that still must be won.

“You can see the gap is such a small gap that small improvements can make a huge difference, so there’s certainly some very fast drivers up there,” Perez said. 

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III